All posts by Mr Hari Covert

I am a passionate foodie, former chef and also ex hotel & restaurant inspector. I have been immersed in food for over forty years so its been a lifetimes work...

Happy Friday the 13th…

Paraskevidekatriaphobia sufferers need not attend…

Well for our July event it will take place on Friday 13th July – we are not superstitious and hope you aren’t either!  We are planning weather permitting to make it an alfresco meal down the bottom of our garden – please note if weather is too unsettled it will be done indoors.

We felt for this dinner we would make it a memorable four course meal that showcased some interesting techniques and flavour combinations. (Not that all are dinners are not so intended!)

We will kick the meal off with a welcome dink and nibbles of a seasonal nature and then serve as a first course a homemade coarse terrine that will incorporate pork and chicken… I love making a terrine as there is a skill to keeping it moist and full of flavour and it always excites me when I cut into it for the first time. I will serve it with a homemade butternut squash & cranberry chutney that has been maturing now for a good while!

Next a challenging dish for some will be a Ceviche of sea bass and salmon. This is raw marinated fish served with a thinly sliced salad of fennel. The addition of mint in the Ceviche also adds a zing to the citric marinade that cooks the fish. Perfect for a summer evening.

The main course will be roasted beef fillet served with a “Pepper Club” sauce – this is a piquant green peppercorn and port soaked raisin cream sauce – we will serve some fresh green beans (as always) and pommes dauphine little deep fried mashed potato and choux pastry pillows… perfect to mop up the sauce.

Finally we will basically serve a jelly & ice cream dessert that will showcase Marden based cider makers Phil & May Turner and specifically their elderflower cider – we will also stud it with fresh local raspberries and when we serve it some homemade strawberry parfait and warm butter shortbread biscuits.

Dates: Friday 13th July

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £40 Per Person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome Drink & Seasonal Nibbles

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Homemade Pork & Chicken Terrine served with a homemade Butternut Squash & Cranberry Chutney

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Sea Bass & Salmon Ceviche with a fennel salad

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Roasted Fillet of Beef served with a Pepper Club Sauce

Pommes Dauphine,  Haricot Vert

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Turners Elderflower Cider Jelly with Local Raspberries,

Strawberry Parfait and Warm Butter Shortbread

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Coffee or Tea, Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases & Ingredient Availability 

 

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Food for thought…

We love a great TV Foodie programme and there seems to be many on our screens at the moment to cover all tastes.

The BBC currently has a series with Mary Berry looking to find the best Home Cook – it is pretty innocuous and you think why have some of these cooks never prepared certain foods or done some fairly basic tasks.

There is also a new series on BBC 1 that has recently started that has Front of House Supremo Fred Siriex hosting a competition for new start up restaurants looking for funding for their concepts “The Million Pound Menu” is filmed in a Manchester restaurant that strangely enough I went to just over a year ago when it first opened

Beastro is the brainchild of a young lad by the name of Richard Brown who just happens to be one of my former men tees from Oxford Brookes University – they took over his place for about three weeks last November and filmed the whole series then.

It is a programme that illustrates well the skills required to succeed in today’s modern restaurant world but at the same time illustrates the need for a good idea /concept

Masterchef can be gripping when you watch amateurs embark on their journey and then the professionals seem to go to jelly when they stand in front of Monica or Marcus when they have to complete a skills test.

The professional version of Bake Off has Cherish Finden and Benoit Blin giving the contestants what for many seem like harsh criticism but in fairness is just honest opinion. Tough if you find criticism is hard to accept.

All of this glamorises the industry in a way but one thing that is very evident at the moment is the demise of many of our high street brands as they struggle to attract our wallets and spending.

Mixed with this is the lack of chefs entering the industry and what is being described as the Brexit factor where our European work force are leaving in their droves or now not keen to come to the UK to work.

I predict many more closures and less choice on the high street. The independent will flourish as we crave something more individual but it will come with a price. The paying public needs to realise the effort required to produce their favourite dishes.

I have just finished reading an article in my Waitrose Food Magazine about Chef Jason Atherton – a chef I really admire and agree wholeheartedly with – the attributes required by all good cooks is passion and a desire to cook – not to be star as quickly as possible.

I will always frequent a place that displays a passion for what they do and I hope you will too as mediocrity is not worthy of our custom.

Paella comes to the “pequeño toro”

For our June events we are excited to announce we will be returning to the village of Brenchley and in particular we are preparing two nights of Paella at the “Little Bull” Cafe & Bar in this picturesque village.

We will be cooking alfresco a large pan of classic mixed Paella at 6pm and 8pm on the two nights and this can be reserved directly with The Little Bull by calling them on 01892 724985 or you can complete the booking form below and someone will call you back to confirm your reservation.

We are also subject to availability offering the Paella for takeaway for those wishing to experience a freshly cooked Spanish classic in the comfort of their own home.

We will be serving at 6pm and again at 8pm so why not reserve your places now to ensure you get your Spanish fix and come on down to the “pequeño toro” and say hola!!!

Dates: 8th & 9th June

Times:19:00

Price:  £15 per Adult £9.50 for Children (under 10)

Takeaway £10 per Adult £6.00 per child (subject to availability)

Menu: 

Table Snack: Pipas al Punto de Sal

Freshly Cooked Paella – Chicken, Chorizo, Prawn, Squid with Peppers, Green Beans and Peas 

Vegetarian Option available (please request when booking)  

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Fresh Local Strawberries & Cream 

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May you join us…

“To invite people to dine with us is to make ourselves responsible for their well-being for as long as they are under our roofs.”

– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

This quote sums up our supper club perfectly – I have long been a fan of french gastronome and food philosopher – his aphorisms  have often rung true on so many occasions. This is no more so than the one above…

For our May event we will feature those in season foods such as Asparagus, Lamb and Strawberries with some novel combinations and some well tried marriages.

We will kick the evenings off with welcome drink and seasonal nibbles and then start the meal with a risotto made with fresh local Asparagus, Gorgonzola cheese and toasted  hazelnuts – creamy and unctuous.

The main course will be roasted lamb served with a foraged wild garlic crumb, the new seasons jersey royal potatoes, peas and charred lettuce all bought together with a redcurrant jus.

Our cheese selection will reflect what is best and in season and finally what could be better than a soft chewy meringue topped with cream and fresh local strawberries that will be well and truly coming into season.

We hope you will come and join us and we welcome old and new customers to come and sample what “Covert” dining will all be about…

Please complete the booking form below, we will then email you an invoice to confirm your reservation with a small deposit that can be paid securely online.

Dates: Saturday 19th May

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £30 Per Person (service not included)

Menu:

Asparagus, Gorgonzola and Toasted Hazelnut Risotto

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Roasted Lamb Rump, Wild Garlic Crumb, Jersey Royals, Charred Lettuce, Peas & Green Beans, Redcurrant Jus

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Hari’s Selection of Cheeses. Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Fresh Local Strawberry Pavlova

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Coffee, Tea & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

Time for Tea (and Cake)…

Well we are always keen to provide our supper club attendees with a unique covert experience with our events.

For our April event we are pleased to announce something very different and quite unique.

We are linking up with a Master Tea Blender – Alex Probyn – he is brains behind a highly successful company called Blends for Friends and his HQ is located on the edge of the North Downs in a purpose built Kentish Barn that now is a very busy operation.
Alex blends many teas for assorted companies worldwide, they will produce on average one million plus tea bags per week as well as loose leaf tea blends shipped to locations throughout the world.

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Who’d have thought we have such a company within our midst…
Part of the barn has been turned into a swish state of the art bespoke tasting room which is known as the “Blendatorium” where Alex will tutor you through the many vagaries of tea blending – he has a wall of some 500 plus infusions that can create a unique blend.
He will provide attendees with a tutored tasting and this will then be followed by you being able to create your own very unique blend to take home with you.

Finally once this is all completed his in house catering team with some assistance from yours truly we will then serve you with a delightful afternoon tea at their in house café, this will include a selection of sandwiches, homemade cake, biscuits and pastries.

We have also invited Pastry tutor Jonathan Deddis who was a contestant on the last series of the BBC series “Bake Off Crème de la Crème” to also produce some unique high end patisserie where his artistry and skills will also encompass some of Alex’s teas.

This will be a truly perfect way to finish off this event. The café is not open to the public so it will be a truly exclusive and must not miss event. This is a unique way to learn more about the world of tea in a fun and informative way.

The event is a one off we have secured an exclusive all in discounted price for this event of £65 per person that is a saving of £10 per person on their normal tea tasting prices. There are just 12 spaces available on a first come first served basis and the event will only take place if all places are sold so why not get a group of tea enthusiasts together and let’s make a party of it!

To book your places we request you complete the booking form below and we will then invoice you with an online credit/debit card payment link and this will be fully refunded should we not get sufficient numbers for the event.

We request the full payment up front and cancellation by attendees seven days before the event will garner a full refund but thereafter no refunds can be offered unless we can find replacement attendees.

Date: Friday 20th April 2018

Venue: The Barn, Coney Shaw Farm, Kemsing Road, Kemsing, TN15 6NN

Start: 14:00

Tutored Tea Tasting :  with Alex Probyn – a Master Tea Blender followed by your chance to create your own bespoke blend from over 500 assorted infusions…finally you get to sit down to a sumptuous set tea that will include freshly made sandwiches, homemade cakes, biscuits and tea inspired pastries by pastry supremo Jonathan Deddis.

Finish:  5:30pm

Price:  £65.00 per person inclusive of your own tea blend to take home & set afternoon tea.

Please do let us know of any allergies or dietary requirements when booking.

Covert Secrets Revealed…

We thought it is about time we offered a structured cookery demo so instead of a dinner event in February we are offering a very special lunch preceded by a live cookery demo.

We will have just four spaces and Hari will demonstrate a full three course menu that you will all sit down to eat. It is a great way to learn some new techniques and tips and Hari will be more than happy to answer any questions along the way.

We will ask all attendees to arrive at 9:45am for a welcome coffee and biscuits. The demo will kick off at 10:00 am prompt and then lunch will be served to all around 1:00pm (or basically when ready)

The dishes that will be demonstrated will be as follows

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Date: Saturday 24th February 2018

Arrival: 9:45 am

Finish: Circa 2:00 pm

Price: £55 per person includes Recipe Sheets and  3 course Lunch


Starter: Ceviche of Smoked Haddock, Celeriac Remoulade & Apple

Main Course: Supreme of Chicken with a Prune & Bacon Stuffing, Red Wine & Prune Sauce

Gratin Dauphinoise & Vegetable Medley

Dessert: “Damian Allsops” Water Chocolate Mousse served with Blood Orange Segments

N.B. Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

If time allows Hari will also demonstrate his Beer Bread and the demo will also show how to bone a whole chicken and the process of making a red wine stock. He will endeavour do everything from scratch (where possible) and will also demonstrate the presentation of the finished dishes. Attendees will also be provided with recipe sheets to take away so they can replicate at home.

This event will only go ahead if all four places are filled so why not get a group together and come and enjoy a live demo followed by a lunch.

To book  your places please complete the form below and we will then confirm your booking with an online invoice for credit card payment to secure your places.

 

The Long March…

I always like to give my monthly events something of a title and a theme and as the years go by it seems to get a little harder to come up with something pertaining and relevant.

This time for me the month of March sees the beginnings of the end of a long winter as we head into Spring and also we see the clocks spring forward as we head into Summer.

So “The Long March” will see us opening for two nights on the 16th and 17th of the month. The 17th is St Patrick’s Day and we thought shall we go all Irish with the menu but have decided just to in places on the menu have the odd nod to the Emerald Isle.

We will kick the evenings off with a welcome drink and some seasonable nibbles. We have no idea what as yet but we normally serve a soup shot, one cold and one hot “ameuse bouche” so will start researching some ideas.

To kick the meal off we thought we would start with a starter we have done before many years ago… a custard set chilled Cauliflower Terrine. This time we propose to serve it with some freshly poached King Prawns that we will then dress with a sweet chilli dressing and a sliver of roasted cauliflower. The earthiness of the cauliflower should marry well with sweet prawn and dressing. It will also have quite some “eye appeal” as well so a great way to start our food march!

For the main course we thought we would do a roasted pork tenderloin/fillet served with our veritable green beans and the addition of some Chinese Pak Choy. A sauce made with dried apricots and a red wine jus will be a great marriage.

Garnished with some crispy “Pommes Dauphine” a mix of potato and choux pastry that is deep fried will give it all a desirable textural element and something to soak up that sauce.

We traditionally serve cheese following the main course (the French way) and here we hope to introduce an Irish element ! We have also been experimenting recently with some new style biscuits – a totally gluten free version using a mix of ground seeds including hemp, chia and linseed. We of course will also have our now much sought after Porridge Oat biscuits as well.

Finally to complete the meal we will serve a very much in season fruit – Rhubarb as a pastry slice married with the classic combo of custard. This will complete a fun night of good seasonal food with some classic combinations.

Coffee and Petit Fours will finish it all off along with your comments on the event in our guest book or as a review on our Facebook page.

Dates: Friday 16th & Saturday 17th March 2018

Arrival: 7:30pm – Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm 

Suggested Donation: £35 per person  – a £5 per person Reservation Deposit by emailed invoice with a secure credit card payment link will secure your places.

We then request the balance of £30 cash per person on the night  (N.B. service not included)

Water & Glasses provided on the table – guests can bring their own drinks to consume with their dinner. 

Menu

Welcome Drink and Nibbles

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Cauliflower Terrine garnished with Poached Prawns in a Sweet Chilli Dressing

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Roasted Pork Fillet, Apricot Jus

Pommes Dauphine

Haricots Verts & Pak Choy

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Hari’s Cheese Selection with Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Rhubarb & Custard Cream Slice

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Coffee & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

 

Do we really love food?

A recent BBC News headline caught my eye as I laid in bed supping my morning cuppa “Chef Angela Hartnett says Britons are not really foodies”

It is quite a bold statement and  I have to say an opinion I would totally concur with as there are many Britons that like to think they are but we really do lack the same food culture as our European neighbours Spain, France or Italy. (they are not without their faults as well)

The Germans are more like us whilst Asian cultures have far more developed understanding of food than we do. I have to say we have become better in the last 40 years but one of the points Angela Hartnett raises is the fact that our food culture is money driven from the “haves and have nots”

We are also so wasteful with food and totally unimaginative in using up those items past their best. The lack of skills in a kitchen both at home and now often in professional environment also means there is a need to develop the skills lost over time on how to manage our resources better. A good business practice as well.

Those BBC programmes “Back in Time” that looked at how families cooked and ate far more left overs and had a connection with food was a fascinating insight into how times have changed over the decades.

Having lived in cultures that appreciate their food, the seasons and their history it seems a real shame we do not teach from a very young age here in this country some basic principals. I fondly remember a few years ago seeing a class of primary school children (All under 5) in France being led into a Michelin starred restaurant where I was dining to come and sample some classic French ingredients like foie gras, snails and chocolate to have their palates educated.

I have for the past six years annually coached a group of young girls at a local school how to gut a fish and bone a chicken and it never ceases to amaze me how squeamish the majority are about the whole process and how unconnected they are from the food they enjoy.

I myself was a fussy child not eating many foods and it was not until I left home and started my studies and travelled more widely that I woke up to food and what it has to offer. It provides conversation, enjoyment and nourishment and is also useful in so many other ways.

If there is one thing we should teach in schools it is how to appreciate the food we eat and how we can cook it properly. I will keep doing my bit but unless we change and become a nation of foodies then alas nothing will change!

I also recently managed to watch a film on Netflix called “The Last Magnificent” about one of the first celebrity chefs in America Jeremiah Tower. It was an eyeopening and thought provoking look at how what we now take for granted is a relatively modern phenomenon. What struck me most was how as a child his parents left him to his own devices (he had a very privileged upbringing and it was this experience that helped develop his passion for food)

So my challenge for 2018 is to keep plugging away at trying to develop young palates and create a different culture towards food. I would challenge anyone who wants to join me on this mission will be most welcome to do so.

Review of 2017…

Well it has been a hectic year at “Covert Towers” during 2017 with a variety of dinners and an assortment of functions throughout the year along with some pretty impressive dining out experiences as well as the odd humdinger as well! Less said about them the better!

We kicked the year off with a new concept for our dinners where we did a “Pot Luck” menu where we literally decided the menu at the last minute and suggested a minimum donation of just £10 per person. We were amazed over two dinners and one lunch we managed to serve a total of 48 diners – a record for us and a great way to kick the year off.

Next up was our Game On dinner where we featured some amazing Game – from venison Pigeon and then Guinea Fowl and this was quickly followed by what we termed our Quirky Dinner as we were deemed a “quirky” food venue on the newly launched Quirky Kent website.

May saw us do an event in a new venue for us on the “Mountain of Crowborough” in the Community Centre where we took over their cafe for the night and popped up with a special four course menu.

We were back there in the summer when we also did another night where we served up our infamous Paella from a single large pan! In fact during this year we managed to serve up Paella a number of times with the biggest challenge, doing a party of 100 using some four separate pans.

Other private functions saw us doing Moroccan Chicken in the pans and even one where we did bubble and squeak so we could serve up Sausages with an onion gravy to about 80 guests enjoying the Tom Carradine Cockney Sing-a-Long. If you are are planning an event in 2018 check out our Man with a Pan service or our @yourhome offer as well.

We also saw events in the Autumn period ranging from our “End is Nigh” dinner to our “October Fe(a)st” and finally just before Xmas our “Ding Dong – Ho Ho Ho” events – one pair of stalwart guests who came along each month commented in our guest book “Turned up trumps again and consistently excellent… delicious food as ever” … makes it all worthwhile for us – thanks David & Brenda!

Our own dining out high has to be the WasTED pop up in Selfridges back in March 2017 whilst we really enjoyed a lunch at Adam Simmonds year long pop up in Soho “The Test Kitchen” and then a new discovery of an Asian Fusion place located in the heart of St Katherine’s Dock run by chef Neil Wager called Dokke – a meal literally just before Xmas was awesome in so many ways – I will return and post a review soon in 2018!

Now we are busy planning 2018 dates and themes. We are already excited about a week long gig in the French Alpes in early February for a long standing Hari customer.

We also have something a little different planned for April – we will publish details soon and we are also hoping to persuade some other guest chefs to join us during 2018 so you can all experience some different styles and unique experiences. We are also hoping to offer a special charity night at some stage as well.

Our first event of 2018 is a joint venture with wine tasting guru Rowena Hawtin so check out the Discover the Vine and Savour the Curd Event for more details… we only have limited spaces left so be quick and reserve your places now.

What a great year 2017 was and wishing you all the very best for 2018…

Cheers

Hari

Discover the vine & savour the curd…

We will kick off our 2018 series of events with a new style event for us. We have done a full blown dinner with associated wines, we have also done a Chinese dinner with specially selected wines included.

This time we will offer a special night of a wine and cheese tasting… We will be joining forces with Rowena Hawtin the brains behind the Discover the Vine, a company that specialises in tutored wine tastings and yours truly who will be selecting a range of cheeses that we will source for this occasion from Maitre Fromagerie Phillipe Olivier based across the channel in Northern France.

Why French cheeses? I hear you all cry, well for me they have a diverse selection and an enviable tradition and history of cheese making and we hope we will enlighten you to some more unusual and lesser know curds…It also leaves us the chance at a future event to showcase our own indigenous cheeses. We will not be biased we promise!

Over forty years ago I worked in a restaurant famed for its cheeseboard of over 40 plus cheeses and the patron was so passionate that every time he reeled off the names and back story of these curds it would sometimes take him over twenty minutes to complete the explanations, only to then be told by the diner they will have the “chocolate mousse”. He would spit feathers at me as he placed the order in the kitchen!

For me though I learnt so much about the diversity of cheeses and the marriage between the curd and the vine is one that is well and truly made in heaven and pleasurable to savour.

So for these two nights we will select 6 to 8 seasonal cheeses that we can then match to appropriate wines and grape varieties to complement them. Whilst the cheese will be French we will select wines from across the globe to go with them and Rowena will provide instruction and insight into the wines chosen and I will provide the back story to the cheeses.

We will feature everything from Goat, Cow and Ewes milk and from mild to strong flavours. We trust you will all embrace this whole experience with an open mind and enjoy the wines we select to go with these cheeses. We aim to open your mind to new sensations and hopefully enlightenment.

Come and be surprised, come and be entertained and also meet like minded gastronomes keen to experience the vine and curd!

Dates: Friday 19th & Saturday 20th January 2018

Arrival: 7:30pm – Welcome Drink & Cheese based nibbles

Cheese & Wine Tasting: 8:00pm – A tutored Wine and Cheese tasting comprising of 6 selected wines and subject to market purchases 6-8 specially selected cheeses from Phillipe Olivier in France.

Suggested Donation: £25 per person  – a £5 Reservation Deposit to secure your place. We then request the balance of £20 cash per person on the night  (N.B. service not included)